Argevollen has pretty much danced to its own beat right from the beginning, taking its time in telling its story and following a path that was quite logical while not usually being predictable. So the fact that this episode went in a somewhat surprising direction isn’t in itself surprising, though there was definitely an odd sort of feel to it. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why, but it left me strangely detached. It’s the second episode in a row where I wasn’t quite sure how the series wanted me to interpret what I saw, but for me there wasn’t as much of an emotional connection this time around.
We’ve seen Argevollen be quite deliberate in terms of plot development, but this ep was definitely a major reversal of style. It wasn’t so much that a lot happened on-screen, but off it – we had almost a two-month timeskip, in fact. Samonji has left Unit Eight without so much as a farewell drink, taking over Reika’s seat in the U-link cockpit, commanding the unmanned Perphevollen units. His friendship with Izumi seems to have collapsed from the weight of this seeming betrayal. And his old unit is now at the rear-guard, with their biggest enemy being boredom.
I’m certainly not surprised to see an episode focused on drinking in bars, mech maintenance and soldiers’ self-reflection – that’s as Argevollen as it gets. But it seems slightly off to me that this massive change simply happened – it’s a pretty damn huge deal as far as both plot and character goes. As Samonji’s unit (now under Suzushiro’s command) battles cabin fever, Samonji’s Perphevollen units have changed the fortunes of the warm with Arandas seemingly winning back large chunks of real estate from Ingelmia. That’s not to say all is well – there’s still clear division within both sides’ command structure about how to wage this war, and indeed whether to wage it at all.
Meanwhile, Suguro-san has turned over maintenance of Argevollen to Jamie and the unit’s technicians, along with full access (theoretically) to its manuals. Superficially this seems like a de facto statement that Arge is yesterday’s news, no longer Kybernes’ priority – though he does specify that he needs Jamie to keep feeding him data. Why? Because there’s a “noise” in that data – and Suguru suggests that it could be this noise which has kept Tokimune from succumbing to NR Syndrome. I have my own thoughts about what that might be (and they’d surprise no one who’s seen Evangelion) but in the larger sense, I think this is a misdirection by Suguro – my gut feeling is that Argevollen is still the crucial element in Vitriveld’s plans, albeit for reasons that haven’t been made 100% clear.
In theory things seem pretty straightforward – Samonji has found a way to sacrifice himself to save Tokimune (and Suzushiro) and Argevollen is now irrelevant enough that Tokimune might not even need to pilot it any longer. But this entire episode feels like a feint to me, a detour on the way to where the story is really headed. Ingelmia is planning their counterattack, most likely with their own unamnned U-link system (and with Richthofen involved, which will likely draw Tokimune back into battle himself). And Jamie now knows (to a small degree) what Tokimune endures in piloting Argevollen, which is all the more reason why she should understand why he shouldn’t be piloting it at all. It still feels as if chaos is going to be unleashed in its full fury before long, with potentially tragic results.